All you word lovers out there, the few, the mighty, enjoy from time to time lists of long words, unknown words, interesting words.

So there’s another list, not so intellectual, but interesting just the same. And fun, sort of.

They come from the Merriam-Webster output and many of them you have probably heard and used.

The first is cattywampus. If you’ve ever lived acoss from a friend whose house is on the opposite angled corner from yours, you’ve been cattywampus. Merriam-Webster said it also may mean savage and destructive. Imagine that.

I’m sure at one time or another you’ve been bumfuzzled.

It’s an old, old word, which may be related to dumfounded. Or maybe not.

Anyway, it means being messed up or fooled by something.

The third I’ve never heard of and no wonder.

It’s gardyloo, and it was used in olden times as a warning that somebody was throwing slops out the window into the street. Most of the time, it was talking about chamber pots, rather than kitchen slops.

Taradiddle reportedly comes from the town of Taradiddle, which also is a taradiddle because there is no such town.

Taradiddle is used in place of fibbing or talking nonsense. It’s comparable with balderdash, which I’m sure you’ve seen in print because it’s a favorite of writers.

Do you know billingsgate? It was once the name of an actual gate in London, the entrance to a fish market.

The fish market was famous for the vulgarity of fishmonger speech, so billingsgate became the synonym of coarse and abusive language.

Do you know someone whose conversation is billingsgate? I do.

Next comes widdershins, which I certainly never heard before, but it’s use is a good one, I think.

It means a left-handed or contrary direction. In another word, counterclockwise. It means to go against. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s frequently used to describe a bad hair day.

Have you had the collywobbles. I’ll bet you have. That’s a pain in the abdomen, especially the stomach. A bellyache.

The folks think it began with the disease cholera, which causes a severe gastrointestinal disturbance.

You can figure out how cholera became collywobbles. People who couldn’t pronounce the first made it into the second name. We do it all the time with strange words. And strange proper names.

Here’s a word all the English teachers know. Diphthong. It’s two vowel sounds joined into one syllable to form one speech sound. Like “ou” in out and “oy” in boy.

Ill-willie is another weird word for a lot of other words for having an unfriendly disposition, like mean, surly or cantankerous. The picture with the list illustrating ill-willie is a mean-looking cat.

We close on a happier note. Conjubilant.

It means just like it sounds, shouting together with joy.

Let’s have a conjubilant day.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at


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(4) comments

Carlos Ponce

I recommend keeping a paper and ink dictionary at home. Merriam-Webster is redefining words to fit a liberal mindset.

In his book "1984" George Orwell used the concept of "Newspeak" - specifically designed to control the thought process.

Looks like we've entered that world.

Bailey Jones

I like the word cattywampus - really any word with "wampus" in it. I was raised with "catty-cornered".

Cathy, there is a website I think you would enjoy called "grandiloquent word of the day". I came across it several years ago. It recently featured a word that I think describes certain frequent commenters on these pages -

Ultracrepidarian (uhl-truh-krep-i-DAYR-ee-uhn)

Adjective: Talking about things beyond the scope of one's knowledge.

Noun: A person who gives opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge.

Example - The newspaper's subscriptions suffered due to the ultracrepidarian trolls in the comments section.

Mary Lofaro

LOL [beam]

Michael Jozwiak


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